The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to
sacrifice what we are for what we could become.
– Charles Dubois
The term “paradigm” originated in science with Thomas Kuhn. He coined it to refer to the process by which a long-held understanding of reality (a paradigm) is swept away by new and contradictory evidence. Many authors suggest that such a process of “paradigm shift” marks our time in almost every sector of human endeavor.
Marilyn Ferguson offers a helpful description of our past and present, planetary and personal paradigm shifts in her book, The Aquarian Conspiracy. Examples of previous paradigm shifts in history include Galileo’s assertion that the sun, not Earth, is at the center of our Universe, and Einstein’s theory of relativity, which overthrew Isaac Newton’s paradigm of “a clockwork” Universe.
However, just the awareness of the demand for a paradigm shift, or even the insight that one is now occurring, is not enough. One needs guidance in how to make the shift, which sets us on a search for what worldview, values, and behaviors to choose instead of the old, outdated ones.
James W. Fowler addresses the notion of paradigm shift from a spiritual or faith perspective, drawing upon developmental psychology. He suggests that persons move through various “stages” of consciousness in their approach to faith. We might think of each stage as a kind of “mental map” or paradigm engendering certain attitudes and behaviors.
Understanding and facilitating the process by which individuals and human societies pass through paradigm shifts or stages of growth in consciousness has been a central concern of mine for nearly 30 years.
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Video: Joel Barker – The Power of Paradigms: The Role of Leadership